Theo Parrish interview: ‘People don’t know how to dance any more’

The revered Detroit producer speaks to Rinse FM's resident selector Josey Rebelle about his upcoming London performances with a new, soulful live band

Ask around for a word to describe a typical Theo Parrish DJ set and ‘church’ is likely to crop up once or twice. The legendary Detroit-based artist is often found spinning music worshippers into a frenzy as he veers from house and techno to jazz, gospel and everything in between, at nights including his longstanding monthly residency 
at Hoxton club Plastic People. 
As for his own productions, they’ve attained buy-on-sight status for any DJ worth their salt. Now he turns his selection 
skills to a group of musicians. Having handpicked a talented squadron of artists, including fellow Detroit keyboardist and singer Amp Fiddler, Theo Parrish and a full live band are hitting the road for the first time in ten years, in order to bring to life the timeless, soulful sounds of his revered back catalogue.

‘These are people who actually know how to dance. They’re the anti-Miley Cyrus’

Tell us about what people can expect at the shows.
‘We’re five musicians performing tracks from the Sound Signature catalogue, and we also have four dancers as part of the experience. Not chicks on poles and dudes in glitter – these are people who actually know how to get down to dance music. They’re the anti-Miley Cyrus.’

Dancing is such an overlooked part of club culture, isn’t it?
‘People don’t know how to dance any more. Not so long ago it was rare for folks to stand to the side and head nod, and it was even rarer for them to be staring at the DJ in the booth all night. That used to mean the DJ was doing something wrong.’

Did you consider doing a live show without a band?
‘Yeah, I could have grabbed a laptop and Ableton Live, but it’s just not my ethic. Other producers do it and that works for them. Maybe they feel like people won’t care either way. I guess what it comes down to is this: do the crowd just want to party, or do they want something beautiful? I like to err on the side of beauty.’

‘It’s like you’ve fallen through a gap in time. That’s exactly how music is supposed to make you feel’

You often play six-hour sets – how do you get all your records to the UK?
‘I take two bags of records. One comes with me in the plane cabin – that’s my precious stuff – and then I’ll check in the stuff that’s replaceable. If it’s a choice between losing an original copy of Fela Kuti’s “Water No Get Enemy” or the latest Robert Hood 12-inch – well, that’s an easy call.’

Are you considering moving across to laptop DJing?
‘For me, the primary method is vinyl. People often argue with me on this and that’s fine. But – technical qualities aside – if the crowd has come to see you, and you care about them hearing something special, I feel you should bring your best records along. If I do reach for my CD case, I want there to be an anticipation that I’m about to play something exclusive that nobody’s heard before’

You always look so happy when you DJ. How does it feel when you’re up there in the throes of a great set?
‘I can’t really tell you because, when that happens, you’re not actually there. You just check out and everything disappears. It’s like you’ve fallen through a gap in time. That’s exactly how music is supposed to make you feel.’


Catch Josey Rebelle's weekly show on Rinse FM between 10am-1pm every Sunday. 


Watch Theo Parrish's 'Footwork' video

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